Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from my family. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to showcase the great baseball talent on and off the baseball fields of Rhode Island. Every year, I meet so many amazing parents, players, coaches, volunteers, and fans and remain so Thankful for the relationships I have forged. 2020 was a very different year indeed. However, fastballs were thrown, singles were hit, outfielders dove and caught line drives, and fans cheered from hillsides and in parking lots. Here is a (very small sample) montage of the people, places, and events that I am so grateful to have been a part of in the Rhode Island Baseball World, 2020:
In late Spring, I reached out to the Newport Gulls to ask if their organization would be hosting any summer camps in 2020. With their New England Collegiate Baseball League season in jeopardy of cancelling for the season, they responded that camp was not going to be happening. But, to stay tuned for an announcement on another baseball front in a few weeks. That announcement came later in June with the exciting news that the Newport Collegiate Baseball League was forming and, pending Rhode Island entering Phase 3 of their ReOpening RI plan, games could be a reality as early as July. I was fortunate enough to attend several games, mask on, socially distant at a virtually empty Cardines Field. Apart from the players, coaches, media, announcers, and a stray few of us media types, the entire stadium was empty, which included the fans. So thank you to Michael Falcone and the staff of the Newport Collegiate Baseball League for allowing me access to watch some very high level baseball at Cardines.
Good bye McCoy Stadium. All summer long for many years, McCoy Stadium is a very popular destination for me and my sons. This season, due to the pandemic, the entire Minor League baseball season was cancelled. Locations like McCoy Stadium served as extended Spring Training sites and featured “Taxi Squads” for the Major League organizations. I did inquire with my Pawtucket Red Sox contacts about coming up to McCoy to see a Taxi Squad game, but it never worked out scheduling wise. Then, in early October, I got a text from Joe Bradlee of the Pawtucket Red Sox. He mentioned that he and Alex Richardson would be running an afternoon clinic at McCoy and would I be interested in coming to the stadium as his guest. I accepted and was able to walk the bleachers, center field grassy area, and in essence, say Good Bye to McCoy Stadium. So thank you Joe, Alex, Pawtucket Red Sox staff for granting me that special request to visit McCoy Stadium one last time. Best wishes in Worcester.
There is nothing like youth baseball tournaments here in Rhode Island. And this summer, Chris Charette and his incredible Chariho Little League volunteer group organized and pulled off the most amazing two weeks of youth baseball this state really, really needed. No chance at a State Title, no chance at going to Bristol, CT to represent Rhode Island in the New England Regionals, no chance to travel west to Williamsport, PA to represent New England in the Little League World Series. Hearts broke from age 12 to 100 all across the Rhode Island baseball community. Enter Chris, his vision of a modified state tournament, and the hope that something is definitely better than nothing. Epic home runs, classic pitching matchups, parents fired up on the hills lining Dow Field, coaches jumping for joy as the winning run crossed the plate – all under absolutely ideal weather conditions for late Summer and early Fall. There honestly were no losing teams in these tournaments. Everybody won – the players, their parents, the coaches, the leagues, and Rhode Island baseball. Thank you Chris, Chariho Little League, and all the incredible Rhode Island Little League organizations for giving us a phenomenal 2 weeks of baseball.
In the wake of the pandemic, many Rhode Island baseball youth were denied the opportunity to participate in the Spring/Summer season. For safety purposes, many Tee Ball and Minor League age players were told that their season would not be happening and to look forward to the fall season should things get better. This was the case in North Kingstown, as my local North Kingstown/Wickford Little League made the tough decision to cancel the season for Tee Ball and Coach Pitch age players early in the Spring, 2020. It was a decision based on the safety of the players and families, as most younger players tend to share bats, gloves, helmets, and other equipment at the baseball field. As Rhode Island got closer to a Phase 3 ReOpening situation, I wanted to do something for this younger population on a small scale, so I reached out to the Recreation Department in North Kingstown. I also reached out to Arnie Sarazen of North Kingstown/Wickford Little League to get his blessing. Both parties were very gracious in their responses, and a summer baseball program was approved for July and August, 2020. Every Saturday morning and Monday evening, roughly 15 to 20 players met and learn hitting, fielding, base running, and baseball skills from myself, Coach Rob, Coach Alex, and others. And on the final practice, Paws from the Pawtucket Red Sox showed up to entertain the kids and families. And families brought a food donation to support the North Kingstown Food Pantry. So thank you to Kyle, Chelsea, Arnie, the players, parents, and Pawtucket Red Sox for making the NK Summer Baseball program so special for everyone involved.
On a personal note, I am grateful my son Harrison got to play a good amount of baseball this Spring, Summer, and Fall. Harrison, now a sophomore at North Kingstown High School, was one of thousands of players who did not have the opportunity to play interscholastic sports in the Spring of 2020. Thankfully, local baseball leagues, AAU and Showcase organizations stepped up and got players on the field safely. I am so thankful for the league administrators for getting the proper signage on the field, instructing parents where to sit in the stands, being compliant with local and state mandates on Covid-19 protocols, and for their efforts to make baseball a reality in 2020.
Happy Thanksgiving to every one in my family, my great friends here and around the US, and all the baseball Moms, Dads, Brothers, Sisters, Grandmas, Grandpas, Coaches, and Players. Enjoy and be grateful for the blessings you have in your presence, whether they are 5 feet away or 1,000 miles southwest. Be safe everyone!!!